Taste Test: Jeppson's Malört
Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at email@example.com.
Every week, we here at The A.V. Club's Taste Test labs selflessly subject ourselves to foodstuffs so misguided that they must have been dreamt up by a cartoonish mad scientist who gave up on global domination in favor of a career of merely disgusting the masses. Who else would be behind a beverage as diabolical-tasting as Jeppson's Malört?
But, at the risk of prematurely tainting your opinion of this urine-colored liqueur, here's what the beverage coyly has to say for itself on the label: "Jeppson's Malört has the aroma and full-bodied flavor of an unusual botanical. Its bitter taste is savored by two-fisted drinkers." Now, calling it "bitter" is generous: At 70-proof with indistinct ingredients, this is rotgut of the most potent and foulest order. There's a good reason its ingredients are left a mystery: Supposedly, it's flavored with wormwood—the very herb used for the highly potent and hallucination-inducing absinthe, which until recently was illegal in this country.
Still, it's been on The A.V. Club's radar for a while—our headquarters are in Chicago, and so was the Carl Jeppson company's, until they moved to Florida, where they remain the sole distributor of it in the United States. But it wasn't until we caught John Hodgman's recent appearance at Second City behind the excellent More Information Than You Require that we were inspired to go under the knife with this libation: Hodgman thrilled his audience there by reading aloud from the bottle and speaking about the drink's curative abilities for pretty much everything. He proceeded to pass two bottles around the audience while he swirled a snifter of it onstage the rest of the night; any fears of spreading germs are moot, as Malört smells strongly of antiseptic and formaldehyde.
When asked via e-mail to expand on Malört, Hodgman had this to say: "All I can tell you about Malört is that I first bought it for a Chicago-themed Little Gray Book Lecture. I don't recall who recommended it to me, but I had to have it shipped to New York. Imagine jägermeister heavily diluted in pondwater, but less piney, and that about describes it. What makes me sad is that it is not available in nip bottles. That is the only thing that would make it more depressing, weird, and marvelous. I brought a bottle for my first Second City appearance in 2006. By popular demand, we had two bottles at my second appearance last month. Next time, I'm expecting a Malört fountain."
The taste: Maybe Hodgman's eternal quest for complete world knowledge goes hand-in-hand with his unquenchable desire for Malört, but A.V. Clubbers unanimously could not stomach it. Within a single sip, reactions swiftly went from "I can't see how it can be that bad" to sputtering and near-vomiting. Here's intern Ellie Cunningham, A.V. Clubber Kyle Ryan, and Internet Eating Sensation Dave Chang taking their maiden taste:
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Indeed, it seems harmless at first, but it proceeds to invade your innards immediately upon consumption with an unbearable, cringe-inducing bitterness that sticks with you for a worrying amount of time. (It also began to eat its way through our paper cups, which was even scarier.) Words do little to communicate how vile Malört truly is, and as proof we aren't just a bunch of namby-pambies, here's roughly 200 reaction shots to ingesting this hateful demon-drink on the "Malört face" Flickr pool.
· [Wincing.] "It's foul. I think people in prison make better alcohol than this."
· "It tastes like extreme dirt. Not just dirt, but dirt that's been super-charged."
· "It tastes like poison. Real poison."
· "Don't get me wrong: This shit is awful, but I expected instant revulsion from my whole being. But really, the alcohol taste is so overwhelming that you don't get anything at first. Then it just lingers and strengthens on your tongue."
· "It's been a few minutes now, and I still kind of have the shakes. That's a bad sign."
· "It's exactly like eating a tire fire."
· "It has an initial nail-polish-remover flavor, and then nothing. Then it tastes like a cigarette got put out on your tongue."
· "It kind of settles into the back of your mouth and then crawls down your throat like an acidic slug."
· "If someone offers you a shot of this, start running. This person is not your friend. A.V. Club writers excepted."
· "I can feel my tongue getting numb. It's like my mouth is creating a defense mechanism against a second sip."
· "Reminds me of that time I chewed a Tylenol Gelcap. It puts a little stain on your soul that won't wash off."
· "Ah! It tastes like death!" [Runs around the room looking for something to replace the taste.]
Where to find it: Binnys.com for $15.99 plus shipping, but only if you've exhausted slower methods of killing your liver.